How Global Economic Progress And Journalism Skew Our Worldview
Factfulness, a book written by statistician Hans Rosling, encourages readers to challenge their worldview and recognize the amazing progress we’ve made in recent years.
We typically think of our world in only two extremes: either super-positive or super-negative.
But that’s not an accurate representation — the reality is far more nuanced than that.
Take poverty, for example — many people assume it’s getting worse, but actually over 91% of humanity now falls into the middle- and high-income categories.
That’s a huge change from just 200 years ago when 85% of people lived in poverty.
The same goes for sexism and oppressive patriarchies — gender equality is rising in many countries around the world.
Likewise, natural disasters are less deadly than they used to be due to modern advances like satellites and early warning systems.
Clearly there’s plenty of progress happening!
Our Natural Instincts Can Lead To Megamisconceptions About The World – The “East Vs West” Myth Is Outdated
In his book `Factfulness`, author Hans Rosling claims that our understanding of the world is often hindered by what he calls “megamisconceptions”, which are deep-seated misconceptions about the world that can prevent us from seeing it accurately.
One of these megamisconceptions is the idea of a divide between East and West –– a concept that is outdated due to the profound changes that have taken place in many countries over the past few decades.
For example, according to data from 1965, 125 countries were considered “developing” due to their high child mortality rate.
Fast forward to today and only 13 countries now belong in this category.
This shows how rapidly humans have progressed and highlights the fact that there really is no “West and rest” anymore.
These megamisconceptions can cause people to mistakenly think that certain countries or regions aren’t capable of modernity or development at all, but this simply doesn’t reflect reality.
By understanding our own megamisconceptions, we can start to gain a more accurate picture of the world around us today.
The Misconception That The World Is Getting Worse Is Due To Our Negativity Instinct And Overexposure To Bad News
Our negativity instinct causes us to have several megamisconceptions about the world.
One such misconception is that the world is getting worse and that there’s little hope for improvement.
In reality, many statistical indicators show that the world has been making immense progress over the past two decades.
For example, in 1800, a whopping 85% of people lived in extreme poverty; today that percentage has dropped to just 9%.
However, since excessive consumption of bad news can make it seem like things are going backwards, we rarely hear about these amazing changes.
Another major misconception as a result of our inclination towards negativity is a tendency to focus on individual incidents rather than look at larger trends or patterns of behavior.
We’re likely to take very seriously news about natural disasters or crimes – failing to consider the fact that their numbers have been steadily dropping due to improvements made in technology and building materials.
So even though bad news may overwhelm us, the reality is that much good work has been done and continues to be done around the world.
Our Fear And Size Instincts Lead To Inaccurate Assumptions Of World Population Growth
Humans have always been governed by instincts and our evolutionary history has helped shape many of these.
Our fear and size instincts keep us safe from perceived threats and can make us overestimate the dangers that this fear presents.
Additionally, the “straight-line instinct,” often associated with population growth, gets in the way of accurately assessing global facts.
Our brains see a chart going steadily up or population numbers rising and we assume it will never come to an end when, in fact, there is usually a peak point that our growth flattens.
When it comes to population numbers, United Nations forecasters predict that the world population may level off between 2060-2100 as poverty decreases and fewer children are born thanks to improvements in education, birth control, etc.
So while we tend to view overpopulation as a real threat due to our fear and size instincts, paired with the straight-line instinct that could not be farther from reality – rather than worry about nonexistent threats such as overpopulation, we should focus on turning current challenges into opportunities for everyone!
Accurate Data And Context Provides A More Accurate Worldview
People tend to generalize and mistakenly think that certain outcomes are unavoidable, when in reality this is often not the case.
For example, if you heard that 4 million babies died last year, you may automatically think that our world is a dangerous place; however, if you reflect back on the number of babies who died in 1950 (14.4 million) then it’s quite clear we have made incredible strides in reducing avoidable deaths.
The same applies to health care.
Many people make unhelpful generalizations about countries – assuming they lack the necessary infrastructure or resources to get the right medicines to children – but in fact, more than 80% of one-year-old kids worldwide have been vaccinated against some form of disease!
This fact alone should dispel any notion that progress is impossible in certain countries or regions.
Instead of making broad assumptions about particular tribes, religions or cultures, it’s important to recognize that developments in any country are closely linked with their income level – so understanding how economics plays into healthcare can help us get a better picture of reality and foster more accurate perceptions of different nations around the world.
Traveling To See Different Perspectives Helps Us Avoid Overgeneralization
People often make the mistake of thinking they can obtain an accurate and holistic view of the world by looking at events through a single lens.
While this is tempting, it’s not enough.
If you want to gain a full picture of what’s going on, it’s essential that you take in multiple perspectives and challenge any temptations to cast blame on individuals or groups.
This is why traveling and exploring other cultures is so important – by doing so, you get to experience different ways of life firsthand and gain more diverse perspectives.
This is especially important if you’re trying to develop a complex understanding of today’s global economy, where nine out of the ten fastest nations are not very democratic.
If we look at recent issues like the refugee crisis as an example, it’s clear that calling out one individual or group ignores the many factors that contribute to such problems.
To really understand these matters, we must uncover why refugees are travelling in substandard boats in the first place – laws requiring refugees without visas to be approved for travel alongside authorities seizing their transportation vehicles – before punishing one individual or group alone.
Ultimately, taking the time to truly make sense of global issues requires us all to weigh in multiple viewpoints and work together as a collective instead of fixating on singular people or parties who may be involved in creating them.
We Must Honor Facts And Accuracy To Make Sound Decisions
When making important decisions, it’s vital to consider all possibilities before settling on an outcome.
This means avoiding rash decisions and sticking to facts, even when people with good intentions may try to spread exaggerated versions of stories.
It’s especially important in terms of education, business, and journalism.
In schools and classrooms, teachers should ensure they’re using up-to-date information in order to break down “West and the rest” thinking from outdated perspectives.
Businesses can also use accurate worldviews to their advantage; for instance, now is a great time to start investing in Africa as well as help the area progress.
Journalism too should remain truthful when reporting on the world, although readers should take multiple perspectives into account instead of relying on one single source for all their news.
At the end of the day, accuracy is essential in order for us to make informed decisions about the most pressing issues such as climate change and refugees fleeing without proper resources.
The final summary of the book Factfulness is all about teaching the next generation to be open-minded and well-informed.
In a world where information can be hard to assess and different points of view are prevalent, acknowledging that the world has improved in so many ways since even just several decades ago, is key.
Instilling this knowledge in our children can help them when forming opinions and better understanding the issues that surround us.
This also includes pointing out how news sources can often times be overwhelmingly negative or overdramatic, thus creating a sense of anxiety among readers.
Emphasizing a balanced approach to thinking by looking at both sides of an issue as well as seeing beyond one single news channel can help one become more factful.